Case study 15. CPN for feeding pigeons in the garden

(Statement by CPN recipient) ‘A neighbour – who is notorious in making false allegations about people – took it upon herself to pursue the council over my feeding birds in my garden, which I have done for the 25 years I have lived here, and still do to this day with very little change and no stress or argument or notice by any neighbour or street member except her.

The council then took it upon themselves to pursue the matter of our feeding birds, with no engagement with us, and that resulted in them issuing a CPN, with no real interaction or discussion.

The CPN was also issued based on totally false facts that bore little relation to reality. I pursued the CPN by appealing in the Magistrate’s Court, as it is not in English law to find someone guilty of an offence without fair trial and representation. My local councillor helped as it was obvious to him that this was a travesty.

In court, I said that I would wholeheartedly support the council if the issue was excess food leading to vermin, or if there was constant feeding such that gulls were held in the area. We put out food scraps almost exclusively once a day in the morning, any food scraps are cut up small where required. And we actively remove any food waste dropped on ground by the birds, or if it’s not eaten and going to be left overnight.

We contested that we overfeed the birds in our garden. We contested that we have ever deposited large amounts of food waste in our garden. When (rarely) we have too much scraps to put out as one serving we will spread it over multiple days. We asked the court ask the council to please provide the evidence to show overfeeding, and for the council to define what a ‘overfeeding’ ‘large amounts of food waste’ actually means.

The council said that there is video of a full portion of chips on our summer house roof, and these are being eaten by seagulls. We only put out food scraps. We have never put out a full portion of chips, nor would we. If there was a full portion of chips it was put there by others, as the area can easily be reached from the public pavement.

The council letter stated that within our area, we have caused ‘Alarm and Distress in the Community’. The Community of our area is made up of a total of 104 dwellings. We asked that the council provide to the court the witness statements from the members of this community detailing the Alarm and Distress suffered.

We argued that it is unreasonable that the CPN states that future feeding should be ‘limited to scattering small amounts of crumbs and seed’. And again, what is a ‘small’ amount? We argued that the council’s CPN requirements on bird feeding in a garden appear unreasonable, as it goes against the recognised, UK wide, guidance for feeding birds in your garden as published by The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which I believe most people would consider as not only a reasonable way of feeding, but also to be feeding birds in a garden in accordance with the law of the land.

The council ended up tearing the CPN up and paying my costs.

Throughout the case, there was no real contact with the council, no interaction, no interest in justice, just a top down edict without recourse to facts and issues. It was just: ‘Here is your conviction, we don’t need to interact with you.’ But I thought, if I let this stay the next thing was a £1000 fine for breaking it. And the complaining neighbour would provide proof even if it was not us feeding the birds but someone in a house close to us! All there had to be was birds circling in the vicinity. The neighbour would be even quite capable of throwing food into our back garden to attract the birds then videoing and sending it to the council.

As a result of this case, I suffered from lack of sleep and general distress, shortness of breath and headaches, and exacerbating an existing spinal injury.

The woman still, almost two years later, keeps videoing birds in my garden and complaining to the council! I had a council environmental officer sitting in a car outside my house a couple of months ago, videoing my back garden for ‘evidence’. In discussion with him it became obvious he did not know the prior history. It is a great travesty that the funding of such biased persecutions can be actioned so easily without checks and balances.’